#151 – Straffe Hendrik

#151 - Straffe Hendrik

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 9 %

The Straffe Hendrik hasn’t always had things it’s own way. Life certainly hasn’t always been kind, and the fact that the beer is still alive and tastes so damn good is one of the great miracles of Belgian beer.

The original Straffe Hendrik beer was only launched in 1981, by the Brouwerij de Halve Maan. It weighed in at about 7.5% – 8%, and was only available in small kegs. It was named after the original brewer of the Die Maene (The Moon) brewery, as it was back then. His name was Leon Maes, but was affectionately known as Henri I. The beer was particularly potent, and thus it became known in Flemish as Heavy Henry (Straffe Hendrik). The beer is thus greatly symbolic of the brewery, as a succession of head brewers were all sequentially named Henri.

The symbolism of the beer was such, that in 1988, the Riva brewery took over the brand name. It continued to be brewed in Bruges though, until 2002 when the whole package moved to Riva in Dentergem. This was where things seriously began to go amiss for Hendrik. The quality of the beer began to mysteriously subside, and the ABV soon dropped as low as 6%. Hendrik was losing his weight fast, and like an aging prize fighter, he was hanging on to the ropes to retain what reputation he had left. The poor quality though soon had a devastating effect on the Liefmans Breweries (of which Riva was one), who went backrupt in 2007. Duvel Moortgat took them over, and immediately closed the plant. Heavy Henry was dead on his feet waiting for the count.

It was never to come though. In 2008, the nostalgic hands at De Halve Maan made an agreement with Duvel Moortgat to buy back the brand of Straffe Hendrik, and within months, Henry was back, this time as an utterly delicious 9% Tripel. I had spent the morning with the folks wandering the sights of the old town of Bruges, and while everyone else was happy to stop for a croque monsieur and a coffee, I was gagging for a beer. I had recently read about the revival of Henry, and where better to try it out than its’ spiritual home. It was absolutely perfect – creamy, sweet, bitter and potent and the perfect accompaniment to some local cuisine. An hour later, like a dazed boxer, I stumbled back into the afternoon sun, knowing full well I would be back for plenty more Henry this weekend.

(Post-Script) – In late 2010, Henry was re-united with his old brother. For a time while at Riva, a dark Straffe Hendrik beer was introduced, although of course it really wasn’t working for them at the time. The Straffe Hendrik Quadrupel is a dark complex beer weighing at 11% and is definitely on my hit-list for my next trip to Bruges.


Filed under 9, Abbey Tripel, de Halve Maan

4 responses to “#151 – Straffe Hendrik

  1. Dear Beer Shrimper

    As a self entitled “Embeericist” I am enjoying your
    Belgian Beer Odyssey. Thank you!

    Please accept my grammar correction in the hopefully helpful way I am offering it: As this is your Blog all of your statements are your opinion, ergo it is superluous to use “in my opinion” as you do in the first paragraph.

    This is of course forgiven as you may have enjoyed several Belgian Beers whilst writing!

    Do you know Podge? He is a friend of ours.
    Will you be traveling to Belgium in March for the Zythos 24 Hours of Beer and Alvinne Craft Beer Festivals? If so we may be able to introduce you to some vintage Gueze and Lambics at The Pub With Insurance Against the Great Thirst outside Brussels (We have a private buffet dinner and tasting in the years the pub’s Gueze and Lambic Festival isnt presented)

    Read more about our Great Belgian Beer Tours & Ultimate Pub Crawls: http://www.ciaotravel.com

    Yours in Beery Friendship
    Bill Snider – Embeericist
    (one who trusts in Embeerical Data)

  2. Embeericist… I’m liking the name

    I could easily be in the hallowed land on the date in question, but being just across the water I wouldnt be on a beer tour. If you can sneak me into your masonic soiree I would be glad to lock horns with fellow professionals. I’ve not met Podge but something tells me he lives fairly close. Would love to share a good brew or too.


  3. First had Straffe Hendrik on beer promotion in our local Sainsbury’s and it was a totally tinny brew – didn’t like it all.
    Took a few years for us to try it again, not realising the history behind it as you’ve described – now our favourite Triple and must get on all trips.

    The 11% Quad is out of this world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s